I built half an igloo and a snow cave this winter. I feel it’s time to reflect on this achievement because spring has sprung. Or at least I think it has – let’s face it, in this country, there’s always a chance the weather forecasters will announce the imminent arrival of Beast from the East 4, even in mid-April. On the balance of probabilities, however, I think it’s fair to say Winter is
Khaleesi and I and incurable big kids when it comes to the white stuff. The moment the first few flakes start floating down we start hopping around excitedly from one leg to the other, like we’re desperate for a pee. We gaze out of the window every few minutes, hoping it will settle. Before long, I’m making plans to construct some architectural wonder, something the kids will cherish in their memories for a lifetime. And then I remember…. it never actually works out like that.
We constructed our first igloo years ago, when the kids were just babes. They were all ill, sprawled out on the sofas. The doctor had been to see them – and declared they just needed a few days of back-to-back CBeebies to aid their recovery. We pampered the little darlings for a while but this soon got pretty boring so we decided to leave them on the sofas and build an igloo instead
Yes, I know that makes us sound like bad parents – but we were only just outside. We could keep an eye on them by looking in through the window. I’m sure the sight of their parents engaged in such heroic industry helped inspire their recovery.
I should point out that this was back in the days when igloo-building tutorials weren’t that easy to come by. Nowadays every Tom Dick and Harry seems to have posted one on YouTube. This winter there was even an igloo adverstised in AirBnB FFS!
The trick to building igloos btw is to make your snow blocks in a mould of some sort, then cut the blocks at an angle so you in build it in a continually rising circle. Bit like a Mr Whippy ice cream but with a hole in the middle.
I look back fondly on that first igloo – and now that the kids are bigger, I thought this would a fine project to embark on together. That was my first big mistake. Kids today – pah! They haven’t got any staying power. The instant gratification generation. They helped me shovel snow for a while (a very short while) before deciding that snow is actually quite wet and cold, and that maybe they should warm up their precious fingers by playing a computer game instead.
Before long I’m out in the garden – alone – shovelling snow like there’s no tomorrow, determined to build this bloody igloo even it if kills me. Darkness starts to fall but still I shovel on until at last I admit defeat. I can always finish it in the morning, I tell myself.
That was my second mistake. It must have warmed up a bit overnight because by morning the blocks had slipped inwards. My igloo really did look like a Mr Whippy ice cream. There was no saving it.
A few weeks later it snowed again – and this time boy did it snow. Ten inches of the glorious stuff lay over the garden. And it stayed there for days. I tried and (to my delight) failed to make it into work. Still smarting from embarrassing failure of the igloo project, I resolved to build a snow cave.
I figured this was going to be a lot easier than the igloo. There was no packing snow into a mould for a start. I could just pile it high, pack it down and scoop it out. A few hours shovelling and it would all be done.
Once again I tried to enlist the help of the kids – and once again they failed me. Alright, they did mess about burying themselves in the snow for a while, which is reasonable behaviour on a snowy day, and Number Two showed some promise as a snow engineer – but it didn’t last. Before long I’m alone in the garden again, stubbornly shovelling away and thinking to myself this feels more like hard labour than fun. The problem was that I’d deposit an impressive wheelbarrow load of snow onto my pile but once I’d patted it down with a spade it compressed down to about the size of a baked bin tin. I don’t normally work this hard even when I’m getting paid.
It took me four days to build a respectable mound. The kids were only mildly intrigued as I finally excavated the interior. I can’t blame them – by this point even my enthusiasm for the project was somewhat diminished. I tried to dress it up as some important survival skills lesson.
“One day kids you’ll find yourself trapped on a snowy mountain top – and this is what’s going to save your life!” (just so long as you’ve got a large shovel and a wheelbarrow in your backpack, and four days left until nightfall)
The snow hole has long since melted away – as has the grief associated with its construction. At the time I repeatedly muttered: Never, Never, Never Again! But time plays strange tricks on the painful memory and erodes away our resolve not to repeat it. Bit like childbirth, really. Maybe by the time it snows again I’ll be hopping excitedly from leg to leg, declaring: “Let’s build an igloo!”